British Mental Health Nurse, Grant Howley talks to Healthcare Australia (HCA) about his experience of packing up his life and moving across the world to nurse in Australia.
How did you hear about Healthcare Australia (HCA)?
“I first heard about HCA on Google. I was searching for agencies which specialise in nurses on working holiday visas and they came up.”
How did you know what to do to prepare to nurse in Australia?
“I didn’t! Initially I only had a passive interest in coming here. There was a lot of paperwork and the whole thing seemed daunting. I spoke to an HCA representative in London (HCL Workforce Solutions) and she broke it down for me and gave me advice on how to get things started.”
How long did the nursing registration process take for you?
“It took approximately 7 months for my registration to come through. I applied in May, moved to Australia in September and my rego was approved in November.
There were a few obstacles and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency required further evidence of training in various areas as I am a mental health nurse, but it was worth the patience in the end when my registration was finalised.”
How early would you recommend someone contact HCA to get organised?
“I would probably recommend contacting HCA as soon as you decide you want to move to Australia. I got great, impartial advice about my visa, AHPRA registration and everything and it was friendly and free of charge.
Even when I arrived in Australia I felt under no pressure to join HCA, however what they offer as an employer really suited my needs at the time and I feel that working for HCA has opened up some great professional opportunities in Australia.”
Was it easy to sign up for agency work and get started?
“When I arrived in Australia I did not have AHPRA registration, HCA organised for me to begin working as an AIN until my registration was approved.
I had an informal interview with a recruitment specialist at the HCA office and went through the mandatory training, police check and working with children check. This all took about a week to complete and then I could begin working. No dramas!
When my AHPRA registration was approved I began working as a Registered Nurse immediately.”
How does nursing in Australia compare to the UK?
“I have found there are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. I have worked in various hospitals across Sydney and found that they are quite similar to the ways in which UK hospitals are organised.
My background since qualifying is in inpatient mental health, and I found it to be a relatively easy transition working in hospitals in the city. For me, some of the major differences include working with the NSW mental health act, it is a little different to the UK MHA.
Also, drugs have different brand names here, which can be a little daunting to start with.
I am currently working on a 2 month contract in Bourke, a rural placement in West NSW. While I have been here I have had the chance to learn about, and experience Aboriginal culture first hand, and also learn about specific mental health care needs of individuals who live and work in rural parts of Australia. I have made some great friends here and found Bourke to be a very community-orientated and welcoming place.
I have been working as a community psychiatric nurse here and this has been a great learning experience in honing clinical skills required to look after patients in the community suffering with both chronic and acute symptoms of mental illness, which has been beneficial to me given that my background is in inpatient mental health services.”
Would you recommend other nurses to take the plunge and nurse in Australia?
“Yes, this was hands down the best decision of my life. Australia has given me a great opportunity to develop professionally, and I have met some great people on the way.”
Could you compare the differences and similarities in lifestyles that you have noticed during your time working as a nurse in Australia?
“Before I came to Australia, I was told that there is a better work/life balance here. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I came here.
There cost of living in Australia is higher than in the UK (well, Manchester anyway), but we also get a better wage.
In addition to that, even if you are flat broke before pay day there is always something to do which will cost you nothing for example a breach day.”
How have you settled into life in Australia? Has meeting people and making new friends been to your expectations?
“It has exceeded my expectations. I found it really easy to make friends here. There are a lot of travelers in Australia and it has also been easy making new friends through HCA.
I came to Australia alone and was worried that it would be hard to meet people but I now have a great circle of friends. I
also found the same when I started my rural contract in Bourke, I have made some really good friends here and will definitely be back to visit.”
Do you have any further advice for nurses in the UK looking to take the step into nursing in Australia?
“Before I came here I was really nervous. I gave up a great job in management and I was progressing quickly in my career. I was worried that I wouldn’t find work, or that I would find it difficult to adapt to working in a different country.
Since arriving in September 2014, I have found that there are lots of opportunities in Nursing in Australia for anybody who is committed to their work, and is serious about what they do.
Working with Healthcare Australia has been brilliant as it has allowed me to work in different hospitals, and they arranged my rural contract which has been the highest point in my career to date.”
If you’re looking to find out more information on how you can follow in Grant’s footsteps and many others click here.